A hard-hitting batsman who hits monstrous sixes. A bowler who can clock speeds in excess of 140kph. A Jamaican. Reading those three sentences, one would assume this article was referring to the precocious Andre Russell. However, this article is reserved for the new-ish kid on the block: Odean Smith. With his impressive speed and six hitting ability, Odean Smith caught the attention of West Indian fans in 2021, many of whom called for him to be fast tracked into the limited overs sides. But, is he truly ready for the pressure cooker that is international cricket?
CPL 2021 Performances
Smith had an excellent CPL 2021 with the Guyana Amazon Warriors. With the bat, he only scored 126 runs at an average of 18, but with the ball he was exceptional. He finished as the joint second highest wicket taker for the tournament (tied with his biggest competitor for a spot in the West Indies team, Romario Shepherd), taking 18 wickets at an average of 14.88 and an economy of 7.54. These exceptional performances with the ball in the CPL led for calls for him to be included in the West Indies T20 side for the 2021 World Cup.
International Career to Date
Unfortunately, Smith missed out on selection in the squad due to fitness issues, much to the chagrin of fans. However, most persons probably did not know that Smith played two T20 internationals for West Indies in 2018 in Karachi against Pakistan, where he was very underwhelming. He bowled 7 overs across the two matches conceding 78 runs and taking two wickets and batted only once, making 6 runs at #10.
Despite this rocky start, and due to the need for a refresh in the white ball sides, Smith was called up to the West Indies T20 and ODI squads in 2021 and early 2022. While his T20 record continues to be underwhelming (66 runs at 11 and 10 wickets at 36.60), he has had an excellent start to his ODI career, scoring 144 runs at 36 and taking 6 wickets at 20.33 across 5 matches.
These performances made his omission ODI squad from the upcoming tours to the Netherlands and Pakistan all the more surprising. Desmond Haynes, lead selector for the West Indies, said that he felt that Romario Shepherd, Kyle Mayers and Rovman Powell were better picks as all-rounders ahead of him. Evidently, West Indies seemed to be trying to move away from selecting too many all-rounders in their squads, but it must be said that having a man who hits big sixes and bowls at 145+ in a squad is handy, simply for the X-factor that he could bring.
However, in a somewhat contradictory move, Smith was selected to the T20 squad for the home series against Bangladesh, alongside each of the allrounders previously mentioned by the head selector. Smith’s returns were average, bowling 8 overs across the three games for 88 runs (economy rate of 11) and only taking three wickets. Batting wise, he faced 8 balls in two innings across the series, scoring only 13 runs.
Despite an underwhelming T20 record, Smith was subject to a bidding war between 4 teams at the IPL 2022 auction, eventually being bought for 6 crore (just over USD$770,000) by the Punjab Kings. In his first game for the franchise, he was player of the match. Despite bowling 4 overs for 52 runs in Royal Challengers Bangalore’s total of 205/2, he slammed 25 off 8 balls to finish the game for the Kings. However, since that game he experienced mixed fortunes, having only scored 26 runs in the other 5 games he played.
The performances in two consecutive matches perfectly sums up the type of cricketer Odean Smith is: an unpredictable X-factor where you never quite know what you will get. In a game against the IPL 2022 champions The Gujarat Titans, Smith was entrusted to defend 19 runs in the final over but gave away consecutive sixes off the last two balls of the over, resigning his team to a disappointing defeat. In Punjab’s next game against the Mumbai Indians, he was entrusted by Mayank Agarwal yet again to defend 22 off the last over.
Despite conceding a first ball six, he bounced back excellently, only conceding 9 runs and taking 3 wickets in the over, to end with 4/30 off three overs. Speaking after the match about being in almost identical circumstances in consecutive games he said “What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.”
But after another underwhelming performance in the next game, he was dropped from the 11 and did not play another game for the side. In conclusion, Odean Smith is an incredibly promising player for the West indies. He is a powerful player who can clear any boundary in the world and has an incredibly unique and priceless ability to hit speeds between 145 and 150 consistently. Being only 25 also means that his ceiling is higher than most, and hence there is still time to refine his raw talent and ability.
Many criticized Kieron Pollard for his limited use of Smith, particularly in the T20s against England in Barbados, but the truth is, his X-factor ability also brings huge unpredictability with it, as evidenced in his performances in international cricket and IPL 2022. However, there is an argument that, despite seemingly perfectly suited for T20 cricket, Smith is being selected for the wrong format, given his ODI record (albeit a smaller sample size) seems to be much better than his international T20 record.
This is something West Indies need to look at for the future, considering the longer format may provide him which a much-needed opportunity to further hone his skills. Smith is the type of player that needs to be backed and supported by a captain and management and hence the Cricket West Indies needs to take the time to refine this raw talent and work on his fitness because once Odean Smith becomes more consistent and less unpredictable, West Indies will have a formidable player on the hands for the next decade.